Young students to compete for robotics state title at Nutter Center

Sixty teams of 9- to 14-year-old students from the Dayton area and across Ohio will compete at the Nutter Center this weekend in the FIRST Lego League state championship tournament.

In the two-day event, the quieter Saturday session will include judging of the teams’ robot designs and a focus on the teams’ “city shaper” projects, as this year’s theme asked them to create innovative solutions toward building a strong, sustainable city.

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On Sunday, the robots that the student teams built and programmed will compete to perform a variety of tasks. The event is free and open to the public, with doors opening at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, and the robot table competition going from around 9 a.m. until close to 3:30 p.m.

The Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base supports and funds the program, according to Brenda Ronnebaum, state FIRST Lego League director and robotics program manager for the base’s Educational Outreach Office.

“It’s our goal to show children that math and science is fun and to encourage them to pursue careers in a STEM related field,” Ronnebaum said.

There are local teams competing from Northmont, Centerville, Xenia, Springboro, Tri-County North, Miami Valley School and St. Christopher Elementary, as well as a homeschool team and other mixed-community teams.

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Teams advanced through 30 regional tournaments and six district qualifying tournaments to reach the state championship. Seven teams this weekend will earn bids to a variety of post-season tournaments in Detroit, Myrtle Beach, Arkansas and the International Invitational in Japan.

The fourth- and fifth-grade robotics team from Xenia’s McKinley Elementary, named “X Marks the Bot,” will compete this weekend. For their “city shaper” work, they focused on a desire for inclusive parks and a community center in Xenia, working with a local architect to create blueprints of their plans.

Team coach Tim Carey, who is also a third grade math teacher at McKinley, said the team has worked hard this year, competing against students as old as ninth grade.

“Not only did our students give a strong presentation during judging (at districts), but they performed well on the table competition, scoring only 45 points behind last year’s state champions,” Carey said.

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The FIRST organization (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), was founded by inventor Dean Kamen to inspire students’ interest and participation in science and technology.

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